Kejriwal's free water scheme likely to go down the drain

Kejriwal's free water scheme likely to go down the drain

Kejriwal's free water scheme likely to go down the drain

The 666-litre free water per household scheme introduced by former Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal is unlikely to be continued after March 31 as the Delhi Jal Board said it has no money to subsidise it. 

The AAP government had announced that the scheme would initially be implemented till March 31, but after Kejriwat’s resignation the Lieutenant Governor assured it would continue.

At the 115th review meeting of the Delhi Jal Board on Tuesday, the members passed an interim budget of Rs 3,928.40 crore for 2014-15 with a plan budget of Rs 1,724.87 crore and non-plan budget of Rs 2,203.53 crore. 

The Delhi government’s finance department, however, refused to pay the subsidy.

According to a senior Delhi government official, at the time of the announcement of the scheme on December 29, the former chief minister asked the Delhi Jal Board to bear a subsidy amount of Rs 41 crore for three months and after that the government will provide the subsidy amount to the board.

“In Delhi’s interim budget passed in February by Parliament, there is no provision of providing money to the Delhi Jal Board for continuing the scheme after March 31. Before the government could prepare a vote on account, it resigned,” a senior official said. 

The process of opening a separate account for funding the DJB has not been initiated yet. The board needs Rs 165 crore to provide 666 litres of water free to every household for the entire year.

“If there is no provision in Delhi’s interim budget, the finance department cannot help the DJB for continuation of the scheme,” the official added.

The problem surfaced again as there is not a government to take decisions. Kejriwal had met Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung to ensure that the power and water subsidies continue after March 31, but despite Jung’s assurance the finance department has surrendered citing financial crisis.

“Despite having surplus budget, the DJB cannot afford this heavy amount for subsidy as it has to carry out various repair work and maintenance of pipelines, which cost money,” the official added.

Kejriwal had ordered a subsidy till March 31, so there is no legal compulsion for the Delhi Jal Board or the Delhi finance department to continue the free water scheme, he added.